February 12th, 2020
“Live a life of friction. Let yourself be disturbed as much as possible, but observe.”
Our girl turned twenty-nine on Monday. Karin baked her a cake. It was a German sort of cake: lots of nuts and heavy whipping cream. The three of us sat together at the dining room table to celebrate the girl’s birthday. We actually sang. The young woman tried some of the cake, frowned, and said,
“I don’t like the cream. It kind of tastes like alcohol.”
Karin was a bit flustered by that. She replied,
“I used an Amaretto flavoring, like in the recipe. There is no alcohol in it. None at all.”
The girl slowly finished her slice of cake, perhaps only out of politeness.
Karin asked her gently , “Would you like some more?”
The young woman said nothing, but shook her head.
I looked across the table at the girl. I looked at her hard.
She was wearing a necklace with the AA symbol on it: a triangle encompassed by a circle. For most people the pendant is innocuous and forgettable. For anybody who has at any point in their lives been part of a 12-step group, the symbol is numinous. It means something, and that something may be good or bad, or both.
The woman is both old and young. That is a paradox, and is hard to explain. Our common struggle has lasted for more than ten years. At the beginning, the girl was just a girl. Now, she has the signs of age. She is healthy and fit, and for the most part, she is beautiful. However, I notice things. I see the sharp edges of her cheek bones. I see the dark circles under her dark eyes; the rings that never quite go away. I see her furrowed brow, the sign of her intense concentration on things that she cannot quite remember. The young woman has ADD, and she is always on the edge of remembering, or forgetting. In truth, I am her memory. I am her calendar. I don’t mind this. It has to be this way. It just is.
As we ate our cake, the girl talked about the AA “dance” on Saturday evening. She told us that she “has to be there”. We asked her about this event.
The young woman smiled ironically, and said,
“It’s what AA people do. They have a dance, but nobody actually dances.”
That sounds about right.
Karin and the girl bought her a dress for the ball. It came from the Salvation Army or from Goodwill. It doesn’t matter. It is a red prom dress. Karin, being a seamstress, did some magic so that it fits the girl. It looks good on her. She will be noticed at the dance.
I take the girl to an AA meeting nearly every day. I never go inside. I don’t belong in there, and the young woman would be embarrassed by my presence in any case. I just observe from the fringes.
I notice things. Most of the people who attend these meetings light up a cigarette immediately upon leaving the place. They have given up one addiction while they eagerly embrace others. It is interesting to me that AA meetings there is always coffee and doughnuts. There is always caffeine and a sugar high. It’s like: “We are going to remain sober, but we have no problem killing ourselves in other ways”.
If the young woman’s immersion in AA saves her life, I am good with that. I can be very pragmatic. Do whatever works.
I just want this woman to live, and maybe to prosper. That is good enough.
She has survived for twenty-nine years.
That is amazing.